Don’t Say Wow

christmasI was in what my husband not-so-affectionately refers to as “the zone.” The cleaning “zone”, to be exact. I’m sure you are well acquainted with how it is when you only have a couple hours to get as much of the house clean as you possibly can and are absolutely determined to actually get to the bathroom floors this time. You know, since several weeks of nothing more than a quick Swiffer job here and there have left you wondering what unseemly creatures a swab test might reveal.

Amazing housekeepers like ourselves should never have to fear a swab test. Never. Ha!

So, the cleaning frenzy was in full force. My beloved cleaning products were ready to go (anyone else out there have a strange affection for cleaning products?), my “bleach clothes” were on, my favorite Pandora station was playing, and my determination to evict whatever non-humans had taken up residence in the tiny little crevices of my bathroom was at an all-time high.

Oh, and did I mention that my three-year-old was home? Sort of kills the mood, doesn’t it?

He was home, and he was bored. I was already feeling guilty for letting him watch too much TV that morning, so I had turned it off. Turning off the TV makes me feel like a really good mom. It also makes me feel like pulling my hair out, especially when I’m in “the zone.” That day I chose to lose some hair and I like to believe it significantly improved my son’s chances of getting into a really good college and making a positive difference in the world.  Two more episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse surely would have ruined him forever. But I digress . . .

After several failed attempts at getting me to play trucks, Shep found a balloon and started hitting it around the house. When you only have one child, a toy or activity that truly captivates their attention and DOESN’T require your involvement is a rare find. The balloon did just that  . . . for about 10 minutes. Then, he decided he wanted to show off his amazing balloon hitting skills. He came into the room I was cleaning and said, “Mommy, look!” Then, he hit the balloon. My response: a half-hearted, “Wow buddy, that’s great.”

Again, “Mommy, look!” And again, “Wow, that’s really neat. You’re good at hitting that.”

Several more times . . . “Mommy, look!”

Each time, my response was the same half-hearted “wow.”   After the second or third hit, I said it without even looking at him or his balloon. I was in “the zone,” remember? I didn’t have time for such things.

Then, it happened. That moment when your child says something so simple, yet so profound . . . mere words that shoot like little daggers straight into the depths of your soul and cut right through your upside-down priorities and selfish intentions. Words that make you pause, put down the spray bottle, hug your little boy, and marvel at how a three year old with a balloon can reveal so much about your own heart.

After several, “Mommy, look!” comments, followed by my half-hearted, distracted “wow” responses, Shep walked up to me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Mommy, don’t say wow.”

What?! Don’t say wow?

At first, I was a little puzzled. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with saying “wow.” In fact, it is generally a welcomed response. How did my son not know this?

Then it hit me. It’s not that he didn’t want my “wow.” He just didn’t want my fake “wow.” He wanted me to stop what I was doing, look at him, and genuinely delight in his balloon hitting skills. He didn’t want my half-hearted affirmation. He wanted my whole-hearted attention.

In that moment, with a Swiffer duster in one hand and a can of Pledge in the other, I thought of how many times I do the same thing to God. While I know full well that God is nothing like my three year old, I have to admit that He often comes to me with the same message: Don’t say wow.

Don’t just go through the motions. Don’t merely pretend to care. Don’t fake affection.

Don’t settle for “devotions” that are void of any true devotion or praise that is empty of any real passion.

In Isaiah 29:13, God says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”

In other words, they said “wow,” but they felt no wonder.  They were all duty with no delight.

I don’t want to be like that. Especially not now. Not at Christmas. Not when I’m celebrating the marvelous, miraculous incarnation of my Savior, without which I would be utterly lost in my sins and destined for an eternity in hell. If there’s ever a time to say “wow” and really mean it, it’s now!

As we rush through all the last minute preparations for Christmas, let’s make sure we don’t rush past the Person of Christmas.

Stop. Breathe. Read. Pray. Marinate.

As you do, hear the Lord’s sweet whisper . . .

Don’t [just]  say wow.

 

 

 

 

 

Prepare Him Room

I suppose most people are a bit more organized and intentional with their Christmas decorating than I am. While I have some decorations that go in the exact same place every single year, I have others that I never know where to place, mainly because there really isn’t space for them in my home. Things like the snowman statue that looked really cute in the store, but rather large when I actually got him home. Or the pair of gold reindeer that I just knew would look amazing in my house, but take up way more shelf space than I have. And last but not least . . . the silk poinsettia plants that I feel compelled to buy more and more of every year, as if the 15 or so from the last few years aren’t enough for a relatively modest 2000 square foot home. (Nate Berkus would be SO disappointed in me!)

In order to find a home for these decorations that I have no space for (but can’t bring myself to get rid of), I wander around my house, placing and re-placing them until I finally find the “perfect” spot.  Then I move the items several MORE times before returning them to the “perfect” spot, just in case there is an even more perfect spot that I haven’t yet discovered. Which, by the way, doesn’t exist.  Every home only has a certain number of “perfect” spots and to try to find or create more is a waste of time. But somehow I forget this when I’m in the middle of Home Goods and the adorable Santa cookie jar is begging to take a ride in my cart.

Because there’s only so much space in my house, Christmas decorating requires rearranging, moving things around, and preparing room. I can’t just take the stuff out of the bins, throw it up in the air, and expect it to land in all those “perfect” spots. Wouldn’t THAT be nice?!

What is true of my home at Christmas is also true of our hearts. Keeping Christ in Christmas WILL NOT HAPPEN unless we do some rearranging of our lives, moving things around, and preparing room. December is too busy. The calendar is too full. There are too many parties to attend. Too many cookies to bake. Too many cards to address.  Too many gifts to buy. Too many people to visit. Too many needs to meet. I doubt I’m the only one who feels like she’s barely holding it together . . . and we’re only 5 days into December!

Our hearts are much like our homes in that there are only so many “perfect” spots. If we fail to fill them with Jesus FIRST, all that other stuff will crowd Him out. We’ll have the tree, the lights, the peppermint mochas, the special cookies, the presents, and the sweet family memories, but we won’t have the one thing that really matters . . . an undivided, worshipping heart for that baby in the manger, who happens to be the one and only Rescuer of our sin-soaked souls.  And if we don’t have an undivided, worshipping heart for Jesus, we really don’t have Christmas.

If you want to join me in committing to “prepare Him room” this Christmas season, I have a great resource to recommend. Desiring God Ministries has made a free e-book Advent devotional available and it’s really, really good. We’re only a few days in, so it’s NOT too late to start! It’s the perfect tool for “marinating” in the rich, life-changing truths of God’s Word in this over-the-top-crazy Christmas season. It’s available in a few different file types, so you can view it on any computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet. Click here to download it. Seriously. Do it. You need this!

Because here’s the thing – Christmas doesn’t really start until Jesus is FIRST in our hearts. And as long as our Bibles remain neglected, that simply cannot happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video Blog: A Fresh Look at the Familiar

Got about 15 minutes? If so, join me in taking a fresh look at the familar story of a humble Jewish girl, a faithful carpenter, and a baby in a manger one silent, glorious night in Bethlehem . . .

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Click here to purchase a copy of Ken Gire’s Intimate Moments with the Savior.

Click here to purchase a copy of John MacArthur’s Twelve Extraordinary Women.

 

 

 

“I Can’t Find Jesus!”

“I can’t find Jesus!”

 

I’ll never forget the day my mom frantically turned the house upside-down looking for the baby Jesus that belongs to her glass nativity set. She searched every room, every drawer, and every box of Christmas decorations. She even drilled my sweet (will-do-anything-for-a-good-laugh) little brother to make sure he wasn’t playing some kind of sick joke. But after all the searching and the interrogation, Jesus was still missing. It was quite the mystery, an unexplainable phenomenon, and a real frustration for my mother who takes nativity sets at Christmas time very, very seriously. (I’m exaggerating a little, but only a little.)

 

Turns out, Jesus was never missing in the first place. As you can see in the picture above, in this particular nativity set, baby Jesus is attached to the manger. However, if the manger is turned upside-down, it appears to be empty. It looks like it needs a baby. And yes folks – that’s how she set it up. We spent hours looking for a baby Jesus that was never really lost. She turned the manger over and voila – baby Jesus magically appeared! (I was in my teens at the time, so you can only image the long, exaggerated eye roll she got from me when this discovery was made.)

 

I’ve got to be honest. In all the craziness of the Christmas season – the shopping, parties, cookies, programs, decorating, greeting cards, and family memory making – I often can’t find Jesus. It’s not because He isn’t there, of course. It’s because I have a way of turning things upside-down. I make a big deal out of meaningless things and give little attention to the things that really matter. My home gets a lot of attention this time of year, but my heart gets severely neglected. I put an enormous spotlight on the frivolous things that I personally LOVE about this season (hello peppermint mochas, Josh Groban’s Noel CD, Yankee Christmas candles, Williams-Sonoma’s peppermint bark, the all-important yearly viewing of Elf, and lots and lots of white twinkle lights!), but shine a dinky dollar store flashlight on my Savior.

 

I don’t mean to, of course. I love Jesus. Deeply.  I desperately want to honor Him. I want to really savor the sweetness of the reality that the eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among us. I want my son to know that Jesus is who this holiday is about. My intentions are always very good. But here’s the thing – intentions without actions don’t amount to anything. Who cares if I want to make Jesus the main focus of my life if I don’t do anything to daily renew my mind and re-order the desires of my heart?

 

So here it is girls.

 

Are you ready?

 

I’m about to repeat myself for the 1,678,589th time.

 

If we want Jesus to be the center of this Christmas, there’s really only one fail-proof way to do that. We have to spend time with Him. We have to refuse to hit that snooze button, drag our sleepy butts out of bed, get off Facebook, turn off the TV, put down that novel or newspaper, surrender the need to make that gazillionth batch of cookies . . . and sit at the feet of Jesus for little while.

 

We have to read, and ponder, and pray . . .we have to marinate in Jesus until He seasons our souls and flavors our affections. Not because we’ll get into some kind of trouble or disappoint God if we don’t, but because He’s worth the time.

 

Because He’s a delight to meet with.

 

Because we can’t do a single eternally significant thing apart from Him.

 

Because we are helplessly self-serving unless the Spirit is given free reign in our lives.

 

Because we are absolutely, completely, totally, and utterly dependent on Him for the ability to live by faith and not by sight.

 

Because we desperately need the wisdom that He alone can give.

 

And did I mention that He’s worth the time? And a delight to meet with?

 

So, to keep from “losing” Jesus this season, here’s the challenge for you and me: We have to marinate. We have to soak in God’s Word, commune with our Savior, and resolve to fix our eyes on the true, redemptive, world-changing meaning of Christmas.

 

Every day.

 

Or at least most days.

 

Even when there are cookies to bake and gifts to buy.

 

Even when there’s a party to host (and a house to clean!).

 

Even when the calendar is so full it starts to look like one big ink blob.

 

Even when there’s a deep sadness in our hearts and a longing for Christmas the way it used to be.

 

Spending time with Jesus is the only way to keep from turning the manger upside-down. It’s our only hope for really, truly “keeping Christ in Christmas.”

 

“I can’t find Jesus!”

 

He’s there, sweet sister. You just have to know where to look.

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